New York Rangers:
The New York Rangers are one of the original six NHL teams and were founded by Lester Patrick in 1926. The move was meant to form a team that could share the brand new Madison Gardens with the New York Americans. From the very beginning Lester Patrick built a very successful team, comprised of many all-stars like Frank Boucher, Bun Cook, Lorne Chabot, and Bill Cook. By the 1928 NHL season, the New York Rangers had already won their first of several Stanley Cup championships. The regular season success continued and the Rangers won their second Stanley Cup in 1933, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers continued to play well through the 1930s and in their first sixteen years they only missed the playoffs once, winning the Stanley Cup three times. The 1939-40 Ranger team were an especially extraordinay group. As World War II erupted in the fall of 1939, the Rangers were embarking on a historic season. That played an exciting brand of hockey and is often credited with developing the notion of pulling the goaltender for a sixth attacker in the final minute of play. That year in the playoffs, the Rangers faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup finals - winning the NHL championship in six games. After their early playoff success, the Rangers went thorugh a significant dry spell even though they continued to field competitive teams. They came close in to winning the Stanley Cup in 1950, but ended up losing to the Detroit Red Wings in a hard fought seven game series.
The Ranger teams of the next two decades were all over the map, making and missing the playoffs with changes hapenning on and off the ice. By the late 1960s, the Rangers were once again getting back to a consistant winning record and playoff performances. The 1971-72 squad made it to the Stanley Cup finals facing a surging Boston Bruins squad. They would once again lose in a six game series, with the franchise's Stanely Cup victories stuck at three. The mid-1970s proved to be trying times for Ranger fans as competition came next door to Long Island, in the form of the New York Islanders franchise. The Islanders surprised their cross-town rivals in their first season, defeating the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. With changes on the ice and behind the bench, the blueshirts were back at it under the guidance of Fred Shero and defeated the Islanders in their 1978-79 playoff meeting. The Rangers once again worked their way to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose to the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens club in five games.
Changes continued in New York as the 1980s rolled around. Craig Patrick (grandson of Lester Patrick) came in as the general manager and the Rangers hired Herb Brooks (of 'Miracle on Ice' fame) as coach. Brooks worked on integrating a more European hockey influence on the team and the Rangers successfully blended the two styles with frequent playoff performaces. Even as many of the expansion teams continued to have success, the Rangers were still looking for that elusive fourth Stanley Cup championship. The early 1990s saw the dawn of a new era in the National Hockey League. The Rangers drafted key players like Brian Leetch and Mike Richter and gaining a much needed superstar with the blockbuster deal to acquire Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers. They fired veteran coach Roger Neilson after missing the playoffs in 1992-93 - hiring Mike Keenan as his replacement. The transformation was dramatic as the blueshirts went from last to first and were back in the playoffs. After a tough matchup against the New Jersey Devils, they found themselves facing off with the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals. The Rangers were on a roll, disposing of the Canucks to win their first Stanley Cup final in over 54 years. All-star defenseman Brian Leetch was voted as the most valuable player in that year's playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.
It wasn't long after the win that the fued between Keenan and general manager Neil Smith bubbled over. Keenan would be gone soon as the Rangers got set to defend their championship. The lockout shortened season did not go well for the team and the champs were nowhere to be found when the dust settled. Neil Smith though was not one to shy from making moves as he proved by acquiring Wayne Gretzky the next year. The 'Great One' had an immediate impact on the team, leading them to the third round of the playoffs before succumbing to the Philadelphia Flyers. The following off-season included a huge blow for the Rangers as captain Mark Messier packed it up and headed west to Vancouver. The Rangers countered by getting Pat Lafontaine from the Buffalo Sabres, continuing to tinker with the team thanks to deep pockets of the organization. Inconsisent play, especially in the first half of the season saw the Rangers miss the playoffs even as Wayne Gretzky was in top form.
The Great One's prolific career had spanned two decades and would soon come to an end. In 1999 Wayne Gretzky decided to retire, playing his final game as a New York Ranger at Madison Square Garden. The departure of Gretzky continued to show the fundamental problems with the Rangers team. Too many older, high paid, and often injured players - underachieving on a hefty team salary. The reigns were soon put into the hands of veteran Edmonton Oilers architect Glen Sather. Sather came in as the general manager, but soon took over the additional job of coaching the team. The Rangers continue to struggle as injuries to key players like Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros, and Pavel Bure have kept them from fielding a competitive lineup.
New York Rangers Overview:
Arena: Madison Square Garden
Stanley Cups won: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994)